Relationship With Others 102: Church Involvement

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God calls us to commune with other believers

We shouldn’t neglect fellowship (Hebrews 10:23-25)

  • Fellowship is sharing life in a loving community with other believers (Acts 2:42)
  • Fellowship is shared worship of God in spirit and truth (John 4:19-24)
  • Fellowship must have both sound doctrine and connection with the Holy Spirit

“Church” in the Bible only refers to the Christian community, not a building or location

  • A church spiritually grounds itself on God’s Word (Ephesians 2:19-22)
  • If the church focuses on giving Him glory, God shows Himself at a church service
  • Any gathering of believers worshiping God together is a church

Across history, a church’s location usually varies

  • Only nations which allow Christianity make weekly routine meetings at the same location feasible
  • Some modern Western cultures avoid meeting in set buildings
    • The only spiritual issue comes from hating other parts of the church (Acts 9:1-5)

Shared worship with God can take many forms

Giving shared joy to the Lord through singing and dancing (Psalm 98:4)

  • The Bible has no basis for laughing or behaving strangely

Collective praying and fasting for God’s kingdom to grow and His will done

  • The best prayers are in privacy (Matthew 6:5), so this practice’s biblical basis is debatable

The Bible doesn’t specifically reference a pastor’s preaching, but it’s technically either preaching the Gospel or discipleship

  • Anyone with significant experience in Christ usually doesn’t need to hear the same Gospel message every week
  • Large-scale preaching for discipleship has the downside of insufficient feedback from its members
  • Test a message’s quality by how much Scripture the preacher uses during the service

Churches may incorporate sacraments (ceremonies)

Scripture commands water baptism as a symbol of our spiritual baptism in Christ (1 Peter 3:21)

  • Water baptism doesn’t give salvation but shows it to the world (Luke 23:29-43)
  • Catholics baptize at birth while most Protestants baptize after conversion
  • Most churches that baptize stress its significance

Confirmation is a public declaration of faith in Christ

  • Catholics treat confirmation as completing the water baptism
  • Most Protestants don’t perform a confirmation ritual but honor someone’s private prayer to receive Christ (also known as the Sinner’s Prayer)
  • The Sinner’s Prayer:
    • Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am very sorry and now want to turn away from my past life toward you. Please forgive me and help me to avoid sinning again. I believe your son Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

The Eucharist (communion) is eating bread to symbolize Christ’s sacrifice and drinking grape juice/wine to symbolize covering our sins through His blood (Luke 22:19-20)

  • Most Protestants treat communion as a symbol while Catholics believe the bread and wine become literal flesh and blood (trans-substantiation)
  • The Bible isn’t clear on trans-substantiation

Penance (confession) asks for forgiveness of sins under Christ’s atonement

  • Catholics and some Protestants practice consistent confession with a qualified church leader
  • Most Protestants believe confession is a personal prayer conversation with God and often overcompensate against the Catholics by making it less necessary than the Bible expresses

Marriage ceremonies show the union of a man and woman in the same way as Christ will someday unify with the Church (Revelation 19:6-9)

  • Christians all agree on this ritual, but the marriage ceremony’s details vary

Ordination appoints new church leaders (elders)

  • Catholics treat ordination with plenty of ceremonies and public declaration, but most Protestant churches merely announce the elected vote results

Anointing of the Sick (funeral services) honor people dying and passing on to the next life

  • Most Western cultures make losing a life from this earth a grim and dark affair
  • Many Eastern cultures view death as a mixture of sorrow from missing someone and a tremendous joy of their spiritual victory and chance to finally see God

All churches are flawed

Every church is the sum of the Holy Spirit’s presence alongside each of its members

  • Church leaders must adequately succeed and lead by the secular world’s standards (1 Timothy 3)
  • Don’t let spiritually young Christians who worship their pastor detract from your church experience

Every church has sins that disrupt it from functioning perfectly

  • The degree of a member’s leadership and the severity of their sins determine its influence on other members

Most non-persecuted churches foster culturally accepted sins

  • Some churches fear all risks or dangers (especially larger churches)
  • Some churches treat outsiders’ suffering unlovingly or with apathy (especially when they associate with regional politics)
  • Many church members are gluttons (especially in the West)
  • Some churches idolize comfort, consumerism or patriotism
  • Some churches accept lies through deception or flattery
  • Many churches are religious and legalistic to where their services serve no spiritual benefit

Attend an imperfect church

  • Learn to love in spite of the corrupt behavior
  • Leave when you see the leaders accepting sinful behavior

Generally, growing Christians move between churches frequently

  • Local governments in some countries frequently oppress churches, which creates constant shifting in leadership
  • Healthy Christians are always ready to go where God leads and stay untethered to a fixed location

Joining a new church can be challenging without prior connections

Getting to know a few strangers is effortless if you’re willing to follow Christ into eternity

Large churches often have primary services that look like a performance

  • Often, the purpose of primary services is to share a shallow Gospel message in an entertaining medium
  • Try to involve yourself in smaller groups or ministries instead of merely attending the large congregation

The only way to discover a Christ-centered church is to get involved in one

  • Treating a gathering like a social club or a weekly observance guarantees complacency
  • Finding the right church is trial-and-error, so don’t linger long at an unhealthy church

Your church experience depends on other believers you’re friends with

God calls us to love others, so learn the rules of friendship

We need three kinds of believers in our lives

  1. A mentor – someone who provides input and guidance from experience (like Paul toward Timothy)
  2. A companion – someone of the same gender presently walking through the same challenges and struggles (like Paul with Barnabas)
  3. A disciple – someone less experienced that you mentor with your experience

You will outpace other believers, especially if they’re not as devoted to Christ

  • Remember God is growing you, not your works (Philippians 2:13)
  • The more devoted to Christ you are, the faster you’ll outpace others
  • Make new friends, find new social circles, trust God more

Use your spiritual gifts at your church

Watch God work through you

Use your talents and try any chance to serve that interests you

Next: Spiritual Gifts